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San Francisco Bay Area Steam Trains

Updated on February 8, 2016

Steam Trains in the San Francisco Bay Area

Steam trains were very popular in the West when the United States was growing. There are still many steam trains that are in operation. They are operated by hobbyist who love steam trains. The trips are in beautiful settings and the trains are magnificent.

We live in Oakland, California - right across the bridge from San Francisco. The San Francisco Bay Area has many places where you can still ride steam trains. The trains are full scale or narrow gauge or miniature. Riding these trains is wonderful fun for the whole family - from kids to grandparents.

Image: Roaring Camp from Wikipedia Commons

Roaring Camp Steam Train

Felton, California

Roaring Camp Steam Trains is in Felton, California which is in the Santa Cruz mountains. The trains are probably the oldest narrow gauge steam engines in the United States. There are two rides you can take.

One is on a train that travels a little more than three miles from the Roaring Camp depot in Felton and go up very steep grades into the tall trees of a redwood forest to the top of Bear Mountain. At the top there is a group of redwood trees that look like they form a cathedral. You can stay there and picnic and wait for the next train to pick you up. During the Halloween season, they bring pumpkins to the top of Bear Mountain and let the kids pick a pumpkin.

The other ride is from Felton to Santa Cruz. It takes you right to the boardwalk. You can get off the train and spend the day at the amusement park on the Santa Cruz boardwalk or swim in the beach. Then you can take the last train back to Felton.

Roaring Camp Railway - Videos

Sonoma Train Town

Sonoma , California

Sonoma Train Town is geared to young children. Sonoma Train town is a miniature town. There is a small amusement park and a feeding zoo for kids. The steam train runs through the park. going over bridges and through tunnels The ride takes about 20 minutes. A really nice attraction to see for adults is the roundtable that houses all the steam engines There is food in the park, but we find it fun to have a picnic in town right outside Train Town

This is a picture of my kids outside is the roundtable.

Sonoma Train Town - Videos

Redwood Valley Railway

Berkeley, California

Redwood Valley Railway is in the Berkeley Hills which is very close to my home. I used to take my kids there every weekend when they were younger. Everyone of all ages - including dogs - enjoy this ride. The ride lasts for about 15 minutes through the Berkeley Hills. It is so beautiful up there. When the train enters the tunnel, everyone screams - just to scream. There "bigger" steam engines pull about a dozen open and closed cars that are basically benches in a box that you sit in. There is a "smaller" steam engine that runs on a different track. You sit straggling a long board that is pulled by a much smaller steam engine. We like to ride on both of them. Unfortunately, the smaller train is only open on Sunday afternoons.

The picture is of my son with one of the conductors that he became friendly with.

Redwood Valley Railway - Videos

Niles Canyon Railway

Sunol, California

The Niles Canyon Railway runs between Sunol and Niles which is in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area. The trains are operated and maintained by the Pacific Locomotion Association. They run both steam engines and diesel trains. The route, which goes through Niles Canyon, is part of the First Transcontinental Railroad. The cars are both enclosed and open. The enclosed car has seating and windows. There is a covered car with no windows and an car that has no roof.

Image: Niles Canyon Railway from Niles Canyon Railway website

Niles Canyon Railway - Videos

California State Railroad Museum

Sacramento, California

The California State Railroad Museum is a building FULL of train engines - both steam and diesel. They are stationary, but some of them sit on tracks and can be moved. You get to be in different types of train cars such as sleeping cars (it has simulated movement to see what it's like to be on the train), dining car, mail car, and the engine itself. There are movies that show the history of trains in the west. There is also a model train exhibit for kids to look at and play with. There are also a lot of exhibits showing the role that the "Iron Horse" played in the development of California.

The museum is in Old Sacramento - which is a great attraction. It s right next to an Amtrak station. For an extra treat, we take Amtrak to the museum. Of course we have to have a snack from the snack bar. After we go to the museum we like to walk around Old Sacramento, maybe have an old-time photo taken of us, browse in the shops and possibly and horse-drawn carriage ride through Old Town.

The mall is close - just go through a tunnel and you're at the mall. Lots of places to eat and an abundance of stores for shopping.

Image: California State Railroad Museum from the California State Railroad Museum

California State Rallyroad Museum - Videos

Train Books and Toys for Kids - Both Fun and Educational

Trains are fun to read about and play with. These books are full of colorful photographs and the toy trains keep kids occupied for hours.

Have you taken a train ride through beautiful country on a clear spring day? The steam blows in your face and everyone screams as you go through the tunnels.

Tell me about your experience.

Everyone Loves to Ride the Train - Have you been on a steam train

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    • dlparkerj profile image


      6 years ago

      This sounds like a lot of fun.

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 

      6 years ago

      Cool Lens, reason number 999 to Love the Bay Area; I sure do miss it. I really enjoyed your lens on Steam Trains, well done.

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image


      6 years ago

      My father took my 2 siblings and I on the Roaring Camp train regularly, and it remains a favorite for my son and I!

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 

      6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Steam trains are very popular here in the UK. I remember riding them in the early 60's before they were replaced by Diesel and Electric ones and a lot of lines were closed down. Now there are a lot of preservation societies who have preserved lines and the locomotives that worked them. There is something about those wonderful old machines, and it's amazing that once upon a time this was the only way to really travel long distances overland.

    • aurora7 profile image


      6 years ago

      I haven't been on a steam train, but it sounds fun.

    • Brandi Bush profile image


      6 years ago from Maryland

      This is great...I love how you include photos and videos for each railway. Very useful page for those interested in riding the trains! :)

    • fifta profile image


      6 years ago

      I plan to visit California in the next few months. I will add steam train riding as one of our to-do-list over there. My son loves train, he will love this train rides. Thanks for sharing this great info.

    • psiloveyou1 profile image


      6 years ago

      Great lens!!! Awesome pictures and lots of information.

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 

      6 years ago from Somewhere in England

      Fantastic lens. I used to ride steam trains as a kid. The UK kept them on a lot longer than most places - into the early 60s. Me and my brother thought they were boring and old fashioned at the time. We thought the new diesels were more exciting. Well, there you go.

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 

      6 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Don't think I've been on a full sized steam train but have been on some smaller ones at theme parks. What fun this would be! :)

    • IMKZRNU2 profile image


      6 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Trains are such a wonderful way to travel. My family used to ride the Skunk Railroad near Ft. Bragg when we we little. I miss that! Nice lens and thanks for sharing it...brought back some very fond memories.

    • artbyrodriguez profile image

      Beverly Rodriguez 

      6 years ago from Albany New York

      I love trains and the sound of trains, nice subject and well done lens.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 

      6 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      Great job on highlighting all of the places to visit with trains in your area. I really enjoyed reading your lens and look forward to seeing more of your work....blessed.


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